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Sheila Armstrong

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Sheila Armstrong

I write about communities, invisible boundaries and transgressive experiences, moments of transcendence that make you stop and really see.

Sheila Armstrong grew up in the west of Ireland and is now based in Dublin. She was nominated for a Hennessy Award, first runner up in the Moth Short Story Prize, and longlisted for the Short Story of the Year at the Irish Book Awards. Her stories appear in Young Irelanders (New Island), gorse and in Best European Fiction 2019 (Dalkey Archive).

Paul Baggaley at Bloomsbury acquired her short story collection, How to Gut a Fish, in auction along with her debut novel the fallen animal collective scheme.

‘I tend to pick through the imagery of the world around me like a magpie. Each of the stories in my first collection began as a chance encounter, a glimpse at a photo, or a snatch of conversation. Hopefully you find some silver amongst the foil.

‘When I first began writing, I found it difficult – I couldn’t easily come up with page-turning plots or snappy dialogue. But I always had a knack for thinking about things from a slightly skewed angle, so when I took a course in experimental literature, I found a way of working with words that felt a little bit different, but also right – rich, dream-like and a little bit fractured.

I am interested in everything from physics and technology to nature and landscapes. I write about communities, both rural and urban, invisible boundaries and transgressive experiences – moments of transcendence that make you stop and really see. When I write, I’m trying to get at these experiences by examining exactly what’s there, both in the foreground and background.

How to Gut a Fish, was published on 17th February 2022 to rave reviews and was longlisted for the Edge Hill Prize 2022, shortlisted for Short Story of The Year At The Irish Book Awards 2022 and shortlisted for the Alcs Tom-Gallon Trust Award

Falling Animals was published on 25th May 2023 to widespread critical acclaim and was chosen as a BBC 2 ‘Between The Covers’ Book Club Pick

Praise for How to Gut A Fish

“Poised, distinctive and excellent”

The Irish Times

“Assured … impressive … Armstrong has a talent for disrupting our expectations and her prose is sensorily rich … Her evocations of landscape are extraordinary”


“Armstrong’s stories are rich with description, sight and sounds, textures and scents. The details come quickly, compressed, in close succession; the writing is forever being infused by sensations, both strange and new … Disquieting material, equanimous prose; in combining the two, Armstrong’s stories have a sinister finesse”

Sunday Telegraph

“A triumph, then. A book entirely of and for the moment, possessed of the courage to document the horrors of a world unravelling and the wit to enhance its unflinching worldview with a wry dose of humanity. The stories in How to Gut a Fish, bolstered by Armstrong’s rangy and elegant prose, vibrate with a potent energy. We will be lucky indeed if we see a finer debut collection this year”

“Unsettling, unpredictable, and brilliant”

Roddy Doyle

“This exquisitely wrought collection made me feel as if I were inhabiting another realm: sensuous, tactile, beautiful and disturbing. Sheila Armstrong's hypnotic prose has a haunting, lingering, dreamlike effect”

Lisa Harding, author of Bright Burning Things

“Armstrong’s short stories make tremendously good company, each one transported me to a place I’d never been before. Dark, devilishly well written and full of atmosphere, How to Gut a Fish is one of the most original and affecting short story collections I’ve read in years”

Jan Carson, Author Of The Fire Starters

“Do you know when you read a sentence that is so good, it does weird things to your insides? You kind of shudder with satisfaction and hope for more. Well, I am addicted to good sentences, and Sheila Armstrong is my dealer. The stories in How to Gut a Fish are gorgeously weird, inspiring curiosity both on and off the page. If you’re anything like me, they will send you into a fit of ferocious googling: What is star jelly? How old is the moon? The story titles are works of art in themselves. This is the good stuff. Hook it to my veins”

Louise Nealon, author of Snowflake

“I loved it. I found the stories completely hypnotic and strange. (Armstrong) has a meditative and mesmerising voice, and her description of everyday life is perceptive and profound”

Megan Bradbury, author of Everyone is Watching

“In sumptuous and evocative prose, Sheila Armstrong writes stories that are unnerving and unsettling. Stories which make you go, wait, wait, what was that?”

Claire Fuller, author of Unsettled Ground

“It's not often I open a book to find prose this exciting, original and frankly envy-inducing. Line by line, these stories set a series of small fires in my head, and they're still burning”

Zoe Gilbert, author of Folk

“I loved it. I found the stories completely hypnotic and strange. (Armstrong) has a meditative and mesmerising voice, and her description of everyday life is perceptive and profound”

Megan Bradbury, author of Everyone is Watching

“Armstrong is a writer who must be noticed and read ... There are remarkable moments of clarity and beauty, making this an impressive and must-read debut. It is, most notably, the brilliant and disconcerting Red Market - an exceptional and unforgettable story that will forge How to Gut a Fish as a superb debut collection”

The Word Factory

Praise for Falling Animals

“Elegiac and profoundly beautiful”


“An immensely impressive debut from a major literary talent”

Joseph O'Connor, author of Shadowplay

“Lush, lyrical and cleverly-constructed. A beautiful book”

Louise Kennedy, author of Trespasses

“Armstrong's prose is as invigorating and restless as the sea itself”

Daily Mail

“An intriguing mystery...reminding us that no one can live in isolation”

Take a Break

“Remarkable... an absolutely beautiful debut”

The New European

“Sheila Armstrong is in love with the world and its people, and that love shines out clearly in this luminous novel; a novel built on the stories of one small village, shaken loose when a body falls unannounced on the beach. I absolutely loved it”

Jon McGregor

“A writer of notable talents... Armstrong's writing is as fresh and bracing as the salt-spattered breeze”

The Telegraph

A poignant and immersive read, Falling Animals so deftly pitches you into the head of each character you'll lose yourself in this book. Armstrong writes complex and troubling stories with such unflinching graciousness her characters are desperately humane and easy to empathise with. A stunning first novel from one of Ireland's most intriguing new voices”

Jan Carson, author of The Raptures

“Sheila Armstrong's prose is meticulous and startlingly visual. Falling Animals salvages something altogether human from Life's most sorrowful mysteries”

Rónán Hession, author of Leonard and Hungry Paul

“A wondrous commingling of characters - variously lost, broken, misplaced, striving, reaching - seamlessly bound together by a singular event. A work that sings triumphantly to the interconnectedness of everything. This is vivid, evocative, lyrical, openhearted prose and Falling Animals is a beautiful collage of a novel”

Alan McMonagle, author of Ithaca

“An exceptional debut novel. Profoundly moving, her ability to write community is utterly singular. Her voice sings, using perfect sentences to create unforgettable characters and landscapes, with a structure so deft it is breath taking. I could not put it down and I will encourage everyone I meet to pick it up. Confirms her as one of the most interesting and stellar voices in the Irish literary scene. Falling Animals is a masterpiece”

Olivia Fitzsimons, author of The Quiet Whispers Never Stop

“I loved How to Gut a Fish, and I love [Falling Animals] too. Armstrong's curiosity in the 'small' moments of people's lives is immersive and hypnotic. I found the novel to be tender and dark, alive with the sense that all destinies are intertwined. She is such a fabulous writer”

Megan Bradbury, author of Everyone is Watching

“Utterly distinctive and memorable”

Strong Words

“Set on a perfectly-realised west coast of Ireland... A book to savour and read, and analyse, again”


Sheila Armstrong: the Sligo shipwrecks and mystery man that inspired my novel Falling Animals

Haunted by ghosts of the sea

Listen to Sheila discuss Falling Animals on Arena, RTE

Rights Sold

Bloomsbury (World)

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